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Organizations promoting CSR

Case study from the book Social and environmental responsibility, 2006

Vincent Commenne, 2006

Integra Venture (Central and Eastern Europe)

The organization’s slogan is “We help people to build their businesses so they can become ‘Islands of Integrity’. Then they can participate in the transformation of their communities.” Integra Venture is a network of economic community agencies operating across Central and Eastern Europe. Established by Slovak’s Integra Foundation, the network is also active in Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia. It provides business start-up and development assistance, targeted at helping people, especially women, to escape from poverty. Through its work promoting ethical approaches, Integra considers that it is helping to strengthen civil society, democracy and the free market economy in Eastern Europe. Integra is especially concerned with issues of corruption within its zone of operation.

When the project was launched in 1995, Milan Cicel and Allan Bussard were concerned to revitalize the Slovakian economy, primarily through growing the SME sector – one that scarcely existed under the former communist system. As these micro-businesses did not have the cash to pay consultants, they decided to set up a not-for-profit structure devoted to providing training for novice entrepreneurs. The pair also took the view that these companies could develop for the benefit of society at large. They therefore became interested in CSR and began to push their work in this direction. They became aware if they wanted to be able to ask entrepreneurs to behave more responsibly, it was better to also provide some capital and thus become a co-owner of the business. They took the view that for a manager to take a CSR decision that would eventually have a negative impact on the bottom line required a special type of investor. Otherwise, the pressure to maximize profits is usually permanent and overriding.

Little-by-little the Integra Foundation grew into a position where it was able to provide capital as well as organizing support groups for novice entrepreneurs. The network currently has a 66-strong staff working in six countries and has helped to create or develop hundreds of SME.

This is how Integra describes its mission: “The mission of The Integra Venture is to alleviate poverty, reduce unemployment and help transform communities by supporting the development of hundreds of small businesses in the depressed and developing areas of Central and Eastern Europe. We help them operate with integrity, profitability and as responsible contributors to their communities. They can then become ‘Islands of Integrity’”. So what are the characteristics of these islands? For Integra, they must be committed to a long-term local presence, growth and profitability, transparent and ethical business practices, excellent financial and social value to their stakeholders, and to investing in the development of their community. Integra’s explicit goal is to achieve a critical mass of societally responsible SMEs and link them together in a network of “Islands of Integrity”.

Integra works with funds from many sources: public (World Bank, European Commission, Canada, Switzerland Austria, etc.), foundations set up by major corporations operating in Eastern Europe, and social investors (Business Angels, international social economy funding agencies, etc.).

The Integra Foundation has also published a CSR guide specifically for SMEs.

Ethos Institute (Brazil)

The Ethos Institute of Business and Social Responsibility is a not-for-profit organization whose business and private members aim to encourage the development of good business citizenship through the promotion of economic development with a CSR dimension.

It was created in 1998 by a group of Brazilian businessmen in order to help companies understand and incorporate the concept of business and Corporate Social Responsibility into their daily management processes. As of 2004 it had 894 members of all sizes and from all sectors; together its membership has a turnover equivalent to almost 30% of Brazilian GNP, and provides work to almost one million people.

The Ethos Institute promotes the exchange of knowledge, experiences and development tools to help companies examine their management practices and strengthen their commitment to CSR. It is one of the leading international bodies in the field and carries out projects jointly with institutions from many other countries.

The Ethos Institute aims to promote social responsibility in the business community, helping firms to:

  • understand and progressively develop socially responsible behavior;

  • implement practices addressing ethical criteria, contributing to attaining sustainable economic development in the long-term;

  • assume responsibility for all their activity’s impacts;

  • demonstrate to shareholders the long-term impact on their investments of socially responsible environmental behavior;

  • identify innovative and effective ways of interacting with the communities in the construction of the common good;

  • contribute to sustainable development in social, economic and environmental terms. Since its creation, the Ethos Institute has set out to work on the following actions:

  • information: create a national and international database, identify other business citizenship databases that already exist and guarantee access by all company stakeholders to this information;

  • conferences, debates and meetings: promote CSR to companies and other institutions;

  • technical assistance to companies: through planning, funds mobilization and implementation of social projects;

  • communication: give information about other socially responsible entities in order to strengthen a wider culture of social responsibility;

  • coordination and mobilization: promote alliances and exchanges between companies, NGOs and the public sector.

Corporate Responsibility Assessment Tool (CRAT)

The Conference Board of Canada is a not-for-profit body set up to raise awareness amongst Canadian companies of their social and environmental responsibilities. Working in collaboration with Imagine, the Conference Board of Canada has recently created the Corporate Responsibility Assessment Tool (CRAT-www.conferenceboard.ca/topics/GCSR/cr-at/overview.aspx). The tool will assist the adoption and implementation of CSR policies by businesses of all types (Lafrance, 2003). The CRAT was developed collaboratively, working with industry and a wide range of stakeholders interested in CSR. The CRAT is a software tool used to evaluate corporate strategies and objectives in the light of stakeholder-defined criteria. It represents a novel means to compare the different existing visions of CSR and creates an innovative platform for dialogue between the company and society at large (Ibid.).

Nippon Keidanren – Japan Business Federation

The Japan Business Federation is a broad economic organization formed in May 2002 by the amalgamation of Keidanren (Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations) and Nikkeiren (Japanese Federation of Employers’ Associations) The JBF uses its position as a preeminent business organization to promote CSR practices among its members. To promote ethical behavior, JBF adopted the Charter of Corporate Behavior that also provides Implementation Guidelines to its member companies. The JBF works to promote the Charter among its members.

To quote from the Charter: – members shall strive to promote communication with shareholders and investors through shareholder meetings and investor-relations activities; – members shall disclose corporate information to stakeholders in an appropriate and timely manner; – members shall promote two-way communication with society through public relations and community-relations activities.

The Federation is also working on further promotion of corporate philanthropic activities. Its membership of 1,623 is comprised of 1,306 companies including 91 with foreign ownership, 129 industrial associations, and 47 regional employers’ associations.

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